by Jack Sommersby
The jokes are stale and of the bottom-basement variety of scriblings on a filthy restroom stall.Being that I was far from a fan of Scary Movie (which easily made my Worst of 2000 list) readers may be curious as to why I subjected myself to its sequel. Two words: James Woods. When one of America's top five actors appears in a film, no matter its dubious credentials, I come a'runnin -- substantials like him are becoming too rare a commodity to pass up, even if it's in a glorified cameo, as is the case here. Woods was a last-minute replacement for none other than Marlon Brando, who, due to health reasons, had to drop out of the project and forgo his reported two-million paycheck. Lucky for us. In Scary Movie 2's pre-title sequence, which serves as a send-up of The Exorcist, Woods plays the crusading priest who, instead of being brave and noble, is of the molesting, nutty kind.
"So Bad It's 'Scary'"
Before Woods enters, though, the Wayans brothers (with Shawn and Marlon starring and Keenan Ivory directing) have already 'marked their territory' in cinematic filth by having the possessed child, Regan, urinate a couple of gallons' worth on the living room floor. Yeah. Well, don't fret, for Woods soon enters and temporarily gives the proceedings some much-needed comic charge. When the mother complains that Regan is so bad she won't even let her read to her, Woods eases his way into the punchline, "Candy sometimes helps"; when he enters Regan's room to the sight of her head twisting around, he responds with "Fuck this" and runs for the door; when Regan starts mouthing suggestive profanities, he willingly obliges her; and, in the best gag, when Regan says something derogatory about his mother, he responds not with a holy cross, but a cold-cocked automatic. Glorious stuff, this, and Woods' comic timing is razor-sharp.
Unfortunately, Scary Movie 2 (like its predecessor) sputters and quickly dies out, as if the Wayanses brainstormed and poured every ounce of creativity into their opening but were at a total loss on what to do for the next seventy or so minutes. The film is intended to function as a send-up of the horror genre, but there are two big problems with this: first, the Wayanses have no real affection or interest in the films they're sending up; second, a majority of the send-ups are from non-horror films. With 1988's I'm Gonna Get You Sucka, which poked fun at all those blaxpoitation films of the '70s, the Wayans' touch was clunky but knowing -- you sensed they adored what they were sharply knocking. With Scary Movie 2, though, there's nothing on display that couldn't have been trotted out by any moron with about six to ten horror film viewings under his or her belt; after a gag plays itself out, you can easily imagine it being absently checked off a master list. And if the Wayans are so revved-up about spoofing horror films, why is it that the majority of the films being spoofed here are of the unscary variety like Charlie's Angels, Dude, Where's My Car?, and Save the Last Dance? (It brings to mind the 1983 horror-film compilation Terror in the Aisles and its filmmakers' dim-witted decision to include clips from action-oriented fare like Nighthawks and Vice Squad.)
It's a testament to the Wayans' bone-headed thinking that they've employed Jan De Bont's badly received and certifiably awful remake of The Haunting to serve as their main inspiration here, with the cast of characters staying the night in a creepy house. (What's Scary Movie 3 going to take off of -- the dreadful Jeepers Creepers?) Big mistake, this. Another was in bringing back the gruesome Anna Faris as the heroine, who, unsurprisingly, hasn't had an acting gig since the original. Pallid and about as alluring to look at as a hubcap, Faris is so devoid of comic talent that during a scene where she pantomines walking on the moon (a stupid idea, anyway) you feel all too compelled to just avert your eyes upon her every appearance. She is such an abysmal actress (did she study under Sarah Michelle Gellar?) that she makes an already unbearable film all the more so. The supporting characters, alas, are no better, with Marlon Wayans proving (once again) that his attempts at comedy are akin to a drunk fumbling about for his car keys.
The emphasis on The Haunting and the casting of Faris are liabilities, no doubt, but the Wayans' really fowled things up by failing to serve up more comical going-ons within a given scene. With seven screenwriters credited, it's shocking to see how many empty scenes appear to be included for the sole sake of transition, of getting us from one send-up to another. Keenan Ivory Wayans tries to dress up these filler scenes with inspired staging, but since his timing stalls out more often than not, and being that the film is a mere eighty-minutes long, there are very slim pickings to be had. In the Naked Gun series the jokes are rapid-fire and strictly hit-and-miss, but there are so many delivered with such colorful energy that the discriminating viewer has a bountiful amount to sift through. With Scary Movie 2, it's strictly 'take what you can get', which has the audience either settling for or outright rejecting the pitifully unfunny bits offered up.
For instance, when a ball mysteriously bounces down a dark staircase to a person below (a reference to The Changeling), a moronic basketball montage ensues. When a character is introduced as "Jasonia Voorhees" (itself a none-too-subtle name play on Friday the 13th's legendary killer), we're assumed to be already snickering. Echoes of Poltergeist are uncouthly elicited with Shawn Wayans being terrorized by a toy clown and a monstrous tree. When comedian Chris Elliott's daffy house servant is revealed to have a gnarled hand, the Wayans' assume this to be something of grand inspiration and serve up a barrage of futile gags around it -- which brings us to the film's nadir. With all of the characters seated around a table for a full three-course meal, Elliott continually sticks that damn unfunny hand of his into every serving of food, grossing out the diners and, even more, testing the patience of the viewers, who have certainly gotten past the point of finding someone else's hands in someone else's food even remotely amusing.
In fact, the jokes are so insultingly over-obvious that when a canny one arises like Woods' "Candy sometimes helps." line (which, of course, refers to molestation), it's likely to pass over most audiences' heads because it requires about a nanosecond's worth of thought. And, hey, when the Wayans' can't get anything going the respectable route, they know perfectly well that (thanks to the majority of filmgoers' depleted sensibilities) they can score with their 'money shots' -- you know: semen and excrement (and not necessarily in that order). A geyser of the milky-white substance spurts all over the inside of a walk-in freezer. Human excrement in a cat's litter box and high-projectile excrement from a parrot's hindquarters are perceived to be laugh riots, even when they're sadly indicative of both the Wayans' talent and mentality, which you're implored to flush down the nearest, filthiest toilet imaginable.
Scary Movie 2 is too creatively bankrupt and comically banal to offend, so grounds that the people who hate it are just being prudes isn't going to wash. Most of the audience I saw this with appeared as bored and laugh-deprived as I, with the only ones consistently laughing the very same morons who could possibly find the use of the word "stinkhole" inspired. The film's fatal flaw isn't that the jokes are dumb, but that they're dumbly conceived and executed, so when they thud (due, mostly, to the lack of viable background action going on around to lend support) they're left to stand on their own -- which, given the rock-bottom examples cited above, is somewhat akin to sticking a tone-deaf opera singer onstage to perform a show-stopping aria.Aside from James Woods' rip-roaringly manic cameo, this is the pits.
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originally posted: 12/25/02 02:18:56